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Md. program saves nearly $1 million


A new Maryland program that uses computers to track drug prescriptions for Medicaid recipients has saved nearly $1 million in its first three months, ferreting out abuse and providing better health care, state officials and pharmacists agree.

The program links the estimated 1,000 pharmacies in the state, allowing pharmacists to determine whether people are coming in too early for refills or asking for duplicate prescriptions. Both actions are prohibited and add to costs.

Besides saving money, the program allows pharmacists to better monitor the medications their Medicaid customers are taking so they can spot dangerous combinations.

"From a professional point of view, it's helping us be better pharmacists," said Mark Levi, owner of Medical Arts Pharmacy in Baltimore. "For the state, it's saving a lot of money. It's a win-win situation for everybody."

Known as "Maryland Medicaid Point of Sale and Prospective Drug Utilization Review," the program saved $975,000 in claims during the first three months of this year, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and disabled, serves about 425,000 Marylanders. Their care is expected to cost the state and federal governments about $1.9 billion this year.

Typically, prescriptions account for $80 million to $100 million of that. Maryland is one of about six states using computers to try to reduce those costs -- and help pharmacists review the drug regimens of Medicaid recipients.

Mr. Levi said a Medicaid recipient came in recently for the blood-thinner Coumadin. The computer indicated the recipient had been prescribed Percodan at another pharmacy. Taken together, the drugs can cause internal bleeding.

Another pharmacist learned from the computer that a Medicaid recipient waited weeks before refilling his heart medication, said state Health Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini. The pharmacist told the recipient of the need to keep taking the medication.

"It's a good program," Mr. Sabatini said.

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